Nothing is ever simple for the heroes in J.V. Jones’ SWORD OF SHADOWS
series. At the beginning of A SWORD FROM RED ICE, the third book in the
series, Raif Sevrance is lost and low on supplies in the Great Want, Ash
March has been separated from her Sull guardian, Vaylo Bludd is on the run
and leading a clan of only four, Bram Cormac has been bartered-away by his
ambitious brother, Effie Sevrance has been kidnapped by members of the
Cursed Clan, and Raina Blackhail’s plans to make herself chief have been
thwarted by the Hail Wolf, Mace Blackhail.
Even those on the wrong side of Good are facing difficulties. News of the
death of Spire Vanis’ Surlord Penthero Iss comes while his chosen
successor, Marafice Eye, is on the verge of victory on the battlefield. The
untimely news creates a new battlefront as his allies, the grangelords,
desert him to return to Spire Vanis to claim the Surlordship as their own.
Meanwhile Baralis, left more-than-crippled by Iss’ torturous machinations
to take Baralis’ powers, and his loyal servant and rescuer Crope are on the
run from the Rive Watch as they search for Pethero Iss’ killer.
And the Endlords with their army of Unmade continued to push against the
There are many new characters introduced that help and hinder Our Heroes.
Raif is rescued by a group called the Lamb Brothers, men searching for
souls of the dead, souls in need of peace. When one of the brothers is
killed by a rogue wrall from beyond the Blind, Raif has to teach the
ritualistic men that everything must be done to destroy the body before it
becomes Shadowflesh. They are not happy with what he tells them, but they
understand that some rituals may need to be broken in order to safe some
souls. It is the Lamb Brother Tallal who tells Raif about the legendary
sword in red ice.
Separated from Mal Naysayer after a battle with creatures from the Blind,
Ash encounters a young Sull Far Rider calling himself Lan Fallstar. His
mysterious, sometimes cold manner toward her is different than the way she
was treated by Ark and Mal, but like many teenaged-girls, she is seduced by
his Bad-Boy attitude as he leads her through the Racklands.
Raina tries to pull her clan together as Mace prepares to reinforce Drey
Sevrance at Ganmiddich as Marfice Eye and the granglords near, but Raina’s
plan to consolidate her power while Mace is away is thwarted when Mace
brings Scarpe’s clan guide, Stannig Beade, to Blackhail with half of the
Scarpestone to replace the sundered Hailstone, and to watch over Raina and
Clan Blackhail while Mace is away.
With new characters come new mysteries. Chedd Limehouse, a boy from Clan
Bannen that is not much older than Effie, is also a prisoner of the men
known only as Waker and Waker’s father, but what do they want with the
sharp-eyed boy and Effie? The seemingly helpless Baralis negotiates aid
from the thief Quillan Moxley, but are his promises of riches in exchange
for protection truths or lies?
Supporting characters continue to do their part. When Raif returns to The
Rift, Stillborn and Addie Gunn encourage Raif to overthrow Traggis Mole and
become chief of the Maimed Men after Mole becomes paranoid after an
encounter with Unmade. Vaylo Bludd joins his foster-son Cluff Drybanock at
the Dhoonewall, but while he may love him as if he were his own flesh and
blood, Drybone’s priorities may not match the Dog Lord’s. Anwyn Bird may be
Raina’s strongest supporter, but such loyalty can come at a terrible price.
Wrayan Castlemilk and Hew Mallin become new role-models for Bram Cormac as
he trains at his new fosterage.
A SWORD FROM RED ICE is not the end of a trilogy, but a transitional step
in a longer tale, which is probably why there seems to be a lack of forward
progress in the overall story. The plots involving Raif and Raina
(especially Raina’s) are as strong and as intense as expected. While the
Dog Lord’s portion of the story is almost as strong, it isn’t quite as
captivating as the others. It is always fun to read Effie’s story (“It was
a big thick one with lots of snot,” is my favorite line from her chapters),
which kept me wanting more to happen than what does happen to Effie in her
journey along the river. Angus Lok, who discovered his family’s destroyed
farmhouse at the end of the previous book, is only featured in the
beginning and ending chapters. And the plotline involving Ash, who I had
always seen as the female lead, is severely lacking, especially in her
progress to become Sull and to control her Reach power. Her story seems so
weak that there were times I wanted to just skip over her chapters to get
back to the other stories.
Overall, however, I liked A SWORD FROM RED ICE and I’m eager to read more
in the series. The story may not be making enough progression for my taste,
but it is faster than some fantasy epics by other authors I could mention.
My biggest fear is that the SWORD OF SHADOWS will go beyond five or six
books, but I hope and pray that the wait between this book and the next
won’t nearly be as long as the wait between A FORTRESS OF GREY ICE and this